I was recently watching Spencer Greenberg’s talk from EA Global 2015 talking about deliberate innovation.

We often think of innovation in two broad themes: Genius and Luck. Genius are people like Einstein who are a cut above the rest and made scientific breakthroughs. Luck is when eureka moments led to discoveries and inventions. The problem with these is that they don’t help us be innovative as neither is actionable.

When looking for innvotive ideas, we start looking for solutions that are possible, discoverable, smart and big. The issue here is that more often than not someone is already working on these.

Can we reverse the situation and look for ideas that are impossible, undiscoverable, stupid and tiny. This doesn’t seem too feasible so let’s tweak them just a bit to:

  • Impossible until now: Technology has a lag between it being possible and when it is applied for the masses. One can exploit this gap to create solutions using this new technology and make it more accessible. E.g. applying machine learning to different segments.

  • Undiscoverable to others: Intersection of two complete different ideas that one is rarely familiar with can lead to interesting applications and ideas. E.g. StitchFix is an intersection of data science and fashion.

  • Stupid sounding: There are some ideas that sound stupid unless you know some secret about the world that might make it a good idea. E.g. early days of blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

  • Tiny at first: Try to solve problems for a small group which you are intimately familiar with; this may lead to a path where you can solve problems for a larger group. E.g. was started as an internal tool.

At the end, it is important to remember that innovation is dependent on a lot of other factors such as hard work, luck, quality etc.